Years before the earliest
publication of the Book of Mormon (Grandin Press, Palmyra NY, 1830)
the remains of archaic “forts … temples, altars … watch towers … monuments …
walled towns …” were discovered in western lands occupied by the
So what about
those wonderful stone ruins in Mesoamerica and South America? What connections did 19th
century writers like Ethan Smith, see between these and lost tribes of
Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith, Jr.) announced that almost all native peoples of North and South America descended from “out cast” Israelites! The view was expressed that peoples of Mexico and South America had migrated to these countries from the north. It was concluded that these migrations commenced centuries into the Christian era, and possibly involved mingling peoples. The wondrous hewn stone “pyramids” and temples of Mesoamerica were recognized by Smith, and others, to be relatively recent works, built between the 6th and 12th centuries A.D. Such views were published before the Book of Mormon came forth from Cumorah - the western New York Book of Mormon land (not just a hill) on which Joseph Smith’s family settled. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20, Mormon 6:4)
Unlike View of the Hebrews, the Book of Mormon nowhere mentions pyramids. The reason is simple: The authentic literary setting for the Book of Mormon is set in ancient times of Joseph Smith’s own country - western New York in particular. (Ephraim G. Squier, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York, Smithsonian Institution, 1849)
Joseph Smith believed ancient peoples of Northern America eventually migrated to distant southern countries from “the lake country of America” (region of the Great Lakes), carrying their traditions (e.g. the Flood legend) with them! (Joseph Smith’s editorial on a chapter from Josiah Priest’s American Antiquities, “Traits of the Mosaic History Found Among the Azteca Nations”, Times and Seasons, June 15, 1842, Vol. 3, No. 16, pp. 818-820)
In the July 15, 1842 issue of the Times and Season
newspaper, Editor Joseph Smith relates North American Mound Builder skills
in timber and metal working, to the Book of Mormon account of Nephi
building a temple like Solomon’s.
(2 Nephi 5:15-16)
The bulk of the article cites North
American Mound Builder antiquities as buttressing the Book of Mormon
narrative. Only as a parting note is “Stephens and Catherwoods’ researches
In contrast to the brash and outlandish geographic ideas of his contemporaries in the Church, there is not a single verifiable statement by the Prophet showing that he entertained either a tropical, or hemispheric setting for the Book of Mormon. A diversity of misplaced and far-flung geographic scenarios had been proffered by well meaning colleagues. These early geographies contradicted LDS scripture and each other! (Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations”, BYU Maxwell Institute, 2004)
Years after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, Apostle Orson Pratt’s unscriptural hemispheric model prevailed (for a while) as the accepted Mormon paradigm. (See speculative geographic footnotes to 1879 LDS Edition of the Book of Mormon)
Other brethren became enamored with Stephens’ 1841
bestseller, Incidents of Travel in
Joseph Smith had read both volumes of Stephens’ work, which included a brief commentary on the Mound Builder antiquities of his own country. Joseph pronounced Stephens’ history “most correct”. Other brethren ignored Stephens’ conclusions regarding the date of Central America’s “wonderful ruins” and proclaimed them to be the “mighty works of the Nephites”. Thus began the great “Book of Mormon geography” misadventure! (Joseph Smith, Josiah Priest and the Times and Seasons)
The following is a selection of quotes from Ethan Smith’s
View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America (Second
Edition, 1825) which give pre-Book of Mormon outlooks on the destruction of the
more civilized Israelite society in temperate North America, and the eventual
peopling of Central and
Smith’s opinion on the origin and general direction of ancient
... Then while the music continued, they one by one took up their dishes, and retiring from the cabin by a backward step, so that they still faced the kettles, they separated to their respective lodges; and thus the ceremony ceased."
This writer says, "The Indians believed in the existence of a great invisible Spirit, who resides in the regions of the clouds, and by means of inferior spirits throughout every part of the earth."
Their word for spirit, is manito, which he observes, "from the Arkansaw to the sources of the
On the seasonal ordinances of the Mosaic Law based in the temperate Northern Hemisphere:
... "Agreeably to the theocracy or divine government of
His illustrations of the 4th and 5th arguments have been given with those of other authors.
Under the 6th argument he says: "They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They number their year from any of those four periods, for they have no name for a year, and they subdivide these, and count the year by lunar months, like the Israelites, who counted by moons. They begin a year at the first appearance of the first new moon of the vernal equinox, according to the ecclesiastical year of Moses. Till the 70 years captivity, the Israelites had only numeral names for the solar and lunar months,
* Within 20 years this trait of Indian character is much meliorated.
except Abib and Ethamin; the former signifying a green ear of corn; and the latter robust or valiant. And by the first of these, the Indians (as an explicative) term their Passover, which the trading people call the green corn dance." Mr. Adair then proceeds to show more fully the similarity between the ancient Israelites and the Indians in their counting time, as has been noted.
Under the 7th agreement he says: "In conformity to, or after the manner of the Jews, the Indian Americans have their prophets, high priests, and others of a religious order. As the Jews had a sanctum sanctorum, (holy of holies) so have all the Indian nations. There they deposit their consecrated vessels; -- none of the laity daring to approach that sacred place. The Indian tradition says, that their fathers were possessed of an extraordinary divine spirit, by which they foretold things future, and controlled the common course of nature: and this they transmitted to their offspring, provided they obeyed the sacred laws annexed to it. Ishtoallo, (Mr. Adair says of those Indians) is the name of all their priestly order: and their pontifical office descends by inheritance to the eldest. There are some traces of agreement, though chiefly lost, in their pontifical dress. Before the Indian Archimagus officiates in making the supposed holy fire for the yearly atonement for sin, the sagan (waiter of the high priest) clothes him with a white ephod, which is a waistcoat without sleeves. In resemblance of the Urim and Thummim, the American Archimagus wears a breast plate made of a white conch-shell with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buck horn white button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim."
In this statement Mr. Adair exhibits evidence of which himself seems unconscious. He says the general name of all their priestly order is Ishtoallo. And the name of the high priest's waiter is Sagan. Mr. Faber (remarking upon this) thinks the former word is a corruption of Ish-da-eloah, a man of God; ...
On the possibility that other peoples mixed with American Israelite tribes:
... And can we expect to find more evidence of this kind among any other people who have been more than two millenaries lost from the world, and without records or letters? Could we well have expected to find so much? Consider, our aborigines have remained essentially distinguished from all the heathen on earth, in the uniform belief of most of them at least, of one God; and their freedom from false gods and gross idolatry.
Should it even be ascertained that some customs and habits are found among the American natives similar to what is found in the north-east of
On the earth and timber works of
an advanced Israelite people in
... Pg. 172
wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.
This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil improvement, which are manifestly very ancient, and from centuries before
These works have evinced great wars, a good degree of civilization, and great skill fortification. And articles dug from old mounds in and near those fortified places, clearly evince that their authors possessed no small degree of refinement in the knowledge of the mechanic arts.
These partially civilized people became extinct. What account can be given of this, but that the savages extirpated them, after long and dismal wars? And nothing appears more probable than that they were the better part of the Israelites who came to this continent, who for a long time retained their knowledge of the mechanic and civil arts; while the greater part of their brethren became savage and wild. -- No other hypothesis occurs to mind, which appears by any means so probable. The degrees of improvement, demonstrated to have existed among the authors of those works, and relics, who have ceased to exist, far exceed all that could have been furnished from the north-east of
The later migration of peoples into
... subsequent to their emigration to this continent, have traversed back and forward round the world, and learned from central Asia the arts and sciences? Had this been the case, this continents and its inhabitants would have been known in the eastern world. Such an hypothesis is vastly improbable at least. But they retained and might have made progress in arts, and some degree of science brought down from ancient
... Accordingly we find in Oaxana remaining monuments of Mexican architecture, which proves a singularly advanced state of civilization. -- When the Spaniards conquered
Israelites annihilated in
No wonder these questions should arise in the highly philosophical mind of this arch investigator. Had he known the present theory of their having descended from ancient
Our author proceeds; "Tradition and historical hieroglyphics name Huehuetlapallan, Tallan, and Aztlan, as the first residence of these wandering nations. There are no remains at this day of any ancient civilization of the human species to the north of Rio Gila, or in the northern regions travelled through by Hearne, Fiedler, and Mackenzie. But on the
some tribes remained on the coast of New Norfolk and Nee
Intermingling of southward migrating tribes. The annihilation of a
more civilized nation of Israelites in
... shafts of the golden candlesticks; and on the hem of the high priest's garment; -- bells and pomegranates. These ideas were familiar in
It seems the Spanish missionaries found such traces of resemblance between some of the rites of the religion of the natives of Mexico, and the religion which they wished to introduce, that our author says, "They persuaded them that the gospel had in very remote times, been already preached in America. And they investigated its traces in the Aztec ritual, with the same ardour which the learned who in our days engage in the study of Sanscrit , display in discussing the analogy between the Greek mythology and that of the
Our author again says; "The migrations of the American tribes having been constantly carried on from north to south, at least between the sixth and twelfth centuries, it is certain that the Indian population of New Spain must be composed of very heterogeneous elements. In proportion as the population flowed toward the south, some tribes would stop on their progress and mingle with other tribes that followed them." All seem to agree that the Indians came
from the north-west, and overspread the continent of the south. Our author, speaking of the conjecture of the Indians descending from a people in the north parts of Siberia, says; "All these conjectures will acquire more probability, when a marked analogy shall be discovered between the languages of Tartary and those of the new continent; an analogy which according to the latest researches of M. Barton Smith, extended only to a very small number of words." I forbear to offer any further remarks upon these testimonies incidentally afforded by this most celebrated author. Let them be duly weighed by the judicious reader; and he surely cannot doubt but the natives of America came from the north over the Beering's Strait's; and descended from a people of as great mental cultivation, as were the ancient family of Israel. He must abandon the idea of their being of Scythian descent. He will find much evidence of their being all from one origin; and also much evidence in favour of the hypothesis, that some of the original inhabitants laboured to retain their knowledge of civilization; but that an overwhelming majority abandoned it for the idle hunting life.
In the Archaeologia Americana, containing Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society," published at
Relative to the ancient forts and tumult, the writer of the Archaeology says; "These military works, -- these walls and ditches cost so much labour in their
structure; those numerous and sometimes tasty mounds, which owe their origin to a people far more civilized than our Indians, but far less so than Europeans; -- are interesting on many accounts to the antiquarian, to the philosopher, and the divine. Especially when we consider the immense extent of country which they cover; the great labour which they cost their authors; the acquaintance with the useful arts which that people had, when compared with our present race of Indians; the grandeur of many of the works themselves and the total absence of all historical records, or even traditionary accounts, respecting them. They were once forts, cemeteries, temples, altars, camps, towns, villages, race grounds, and other places of amusement, habitations of chieftains, videttes, watch towers, and monuments." These certainly are precisely such remains as naturally might have been expected to be furnished by a better part of Israel placed in their "outcast" state, in a vast wilderness, with the degree of civilization which they possessed when banished from Canaan; and were situated in the midst of savage tribes from their race, who had degenerated to the hunting life, and were intent on the destruction of this better part of their brethren. Thus situated, and struggling to maintain their existence, and to maintain their religious traditions, they would naturally form many of the very things above enumerated, walled towns, forts, temples, altars, habitation of chieftains, videttes, and watch towers. These cannot be ascribed to a people of any other origin, with any thing like an equal degrees of probability. The whole process of the hypothesis stated in relation to these two branches of the descendants of
The above publication of the American Antiquarian Society, decides that these Indian works must have been very ancient, and long before this continent was discovered by
and modern. But these are clearly distinguished from those ancient forts and remains. Of the authors of those many ancient remains, this publication says; "From what we see of their works, they must have had some acquaintance with the arts and sciences. They have left us perfect specimens of circles, squares, octagon and parallel lines, on a grand and noble scale. And unless it can be proved that they had intercourse with Asia and
To throw light on my hypothesis, I shall add a concise description of several of those ancient works in the west and south; and a few of the articles there found. These are largely given with their drawings or plates in the publication of the American Antiquarian Society, published at
the fort, and about four feet longer than the width of the gateway. The walls are as nearly perpendicular as they could be made with earth. Near this fort is another round fort containing twenty-two acres, and connected with the first fort by two parallel walls of earth about the size of the other walls. At the remotest part of this circular fort, and just without a gateway, is an observatory so high as to command a view of the region to some distance. A secret passage was made under this observatory to an ancient watercourse. At some distance from this fort (but connected by a chain of internal works, and parallel walls) is another circular fort of about twenty-six acres, with walls from twenty-five to thirty feet in height, with a ditch just under them. Connected with these forts is another square fort of about twenty acres, whose walls are similar to those of the fort first described. These forts were not only connected with each other (though considerable distance apart) by communications made by parallel walls of five or six rods apart; -- but a number of similar communications were made from them by parallel walls, down to the waters of the river. All these works stand on a large plain, the top of which is almost level, but is high land by a regular ascent from near the two branches of the river, to a height of forty or fifty feet above the branches of the river. At four different places at the ends of these internal communications between the forts and down to the river, are watch towers on elevated ground, and surrounded by circular walls. And the points selected for these watch towers were evidently chosen with great skill, to answer their design. These forts and chains of communications between them, were so situated as nearly to enclose a number of large fields, which it is presumed were cultivated, and which were thus far secured from hostile invaders. From these works are two parallel walls leading off probably to other similar places of fortifications at a distance. They have been traced a mile or two, and are yet clearly visible. The writer says; "I should not be surprised if these parallel walls (thus leading off) are found to extend from
one work of defence to another for the space of thirty miles -- such walls have been discovered at different places, probably belonging to these works, for ten or twelve miles at least." He apprehends this was a road between this settlement, and one on the Hockhocking river. And he says; "the planning of these works of defence "speaks volumes in favour of the sagacity of the authors."
Some small tumult, probably for burying the dead, and other purposes, were found here. And the writer says of articles there discovered; "Rock crystals, some of them very beautiful, and hornstone, suitable for arrow and spear heads, and a little lead, sulphur, and iron, were all that I could ascertain."
Four or five miles southerly from this is a stone fort enclosing forty acres or upwards. This contains two stone tumult; "Such (says the author) as were used in ancient times as altars, and as monuments." -- He adds; "I should rather suspect this to have been a sacred enclosure, or "high place," which was resorted to on some great anniversary." He deemed its design religious. At the mouth of the Muskingum, in
are nearly perpendicular. At another side of the fort is another elevated square, nearly as large. And at a third place is a third, still a little smaller. Near the centre of the fort is a circular mound, thirty feet in diameter and five feet high. At the corner of the fort is a semi-circular parapet, guarding the gateway, and crowned with a mound. South-east of this fort is a smaller fort of twenty acres, having a gateway in the centre of each side, and at each corner; each gateway being defended by a circular mound. On the outside of this smaller fort is a kind of circular pyramid, like a sugar loaf; it is a regular circle, one hundred and fifteen feet diameter at the base; and thirty feet in height. It is guarded by a ditch four feet deep, and fifteen wide; also by a parapet four feet in height. These works are attended with many minor walls, mounds, and excavations. One of these excavations is sixty feet in diameter at the surface; and was when first discovered twenty feet deep. Another within the fort is twenty five feet in diameter; and poles have been pushed down into its waters and rotten substances, thirty feet. Its sides project gradually towards its centre; and are found to be lined with a layer of very fine clay, eight or ten inches in thickness. It is supposed to contain hundreds of loads of manure. Old fragments of potter's ware have been picked up in this fort. This ware was ornamented with lines on the outside, curious and ingenious; and had a glazing on the inside. This ware seems to have been burned, and capable of holding water. The fragments when broken are black, and present shining particles when held to the light. Pieces of copper have at various times been found among these ancient works. One piece was in the form of a cup, with low sides, and the bottom thick and strong.
Tools of iron not being found in these works, in no sign the authors did not possess them. For had they been there, they would, no doubt, long since have been dissolved by rust. Some remains of iron particles however are found, as will be seen.
American defensive works, metal blades, breastplates and mass burials. Vast
On the waters of the Scioto, at
In the centre of the round fort was a mound ten feet in height, and several rods in diameter at the base. On its eastern side and extending six rods, was a pavement, a half circle composed of pebbles. The top of the tumulus was about thirty feet in diameter, with a way like a modern turnpike leading to it from the east.
This mound has been removed and its contents explored. Some things found in it shall be noted. Two human skeletons. A great quantity of heads, either for arrows or spears. They were so large as to induce a belief they must have been the latter. The handle of the small sword, or large knife, made of an elk's horn, was here found, and is now in a museum at
plate of iron "which (says the writer who has an eye witness) had become and oxyde;" or plate of rust. -- "The mirror (he adds) answered the purpose very well for which it was intended."
About forty rods from this round fort, was another tumulus, "more than ninety feet in height," says the writer in the Archeology; which was placed on an artificial hill. It appears to have been a burying place; and probably was a high place of worship. Immense numbers of human nones, of all sizes, were here found. Here were found also with those bones, stone axes and knives, and various ornaments.
Not far from this tumulus was a semi-circular ditch. The informer remarks it was six feet deep when he first discovered it. At the bottom lay "a great quantity of human bones." These are supposed to be the remains of men slain in some great battle. They were all the size of men, and lay in confusion, as though buried in a pile, and in haste. Here might have been about the last of those more civilized people who inhabited that station; thus entombed in a ditch by a small residue of their brethren spared; or by their enemies, if all in the fortress were cut off.
The article discovered in the great tumulus were numerous; something seemed to have been buried with every corps.
On the river
Another curious set of Indian works are found within six miles of Chilicothe, on Paint Creek, the accurate description and drawings of which are given in the Archaeology. Here the great wall encloses a hundred and ten acres; the wall twelve feet in height, with a ditch about twenty feet wide. It has an adjacent enclosure of sixteen acres, the walls like the other. In a "sacred enclosure" are six mounds. The immense labours of this place, and cemeteries filled with human bones, denote that a great people, and of some degree of civilization in ancient days dwelt here.
A stone mound was discovered in the vicinity of Licking river, near
Says the writer; "Along the Ohio, some of it (their pottery) is equal to any thing of the kind now manufactured." -- "It is well glazed or polished; and the vessel well shaped." Many ornaments of silver and copper were found. Many wells were dug through the hardest rocks.
A crucible was found in a tumulus near Chilicothe, which is now in the hands of S. Williams, Esq. of that place. It will bear an equal degree of heat with those
now used in glass manufactories; and appears made of the same material.
A stone pipe is noted as found six feet in the alluvial earth; the brim of which is curiously wrought in high relief, and on the front side a handsome female face.
In removing a large mound in
"Two or three broken pieces of a copper tube, were also found, filled with iron rust. These pieces, from their appearance, composed the lower end of the scabbard itself was discovered, except the appearance of rust above mentioned.
"Near the feet was found a piece of copper, weighing three ounces. From its shape it appears to have been used as a plumb, or for an ornament, as near one of the ends is a circular crease, or groove, for tying a thread; it is round; two inches and a half in length, one inch in diameter at the centre, and half an inch at each end. It is composed of small pieces of native copper, pounded together; and in the cracks between
the pieces are stuck several pieces of silver; one nearly the size of a four penny piece, or half a dime. This copper ornament was covered with a coat of green rust, and is considerable corroded. A piece of red ochre, or paint, and a piece of iron ore, which has the appearance of having been partially vitrified, or melted, were also found. The ore is about the specific gravity of pure iron."
Surely these things indicate some good degree of improvement in some of the arts of life. Multitudes of other things are noted in this, most valuable publication, in which these things are given.
The great antiquity of these works of the native is proved beyond a doubt. Trees of the third growth are found standing on them, whose annular rings show them to have been more than four hundred years of age.
And the hugeness of those works indicates a vast population.
The clergyman writing from
These ancient works continued all the way down the Ohio river to the
in the Archaeology says; "I have been sometimes induced to think that at the period when these were constructed, there was a population as numerous as that which once animated the borders of the Nile or the Euphrates, or of Mexico. Brackenridge calculates that there were 5000 cities at once full of people. I am perfectly satisfied that cities similar to those of ancient
earthworks compared to biblical
places”. Later migrations
to Central and
These ancient works of the native Americans may well remind us of what was said in the Old Testament writings of the ancient "high places" of
How abundantly are these noted through their sacred writings. In scores of text we read them. Such a king built their high places. Such a reformer destroyed them. Such a vile king rebuilt them and so on. Here was a train of the most common events. The hearts of
piles of stone in ancient
Alluding to the high places in ancient
and third verses, after this, is predicted their restoration to their heritage in their own land. No supposible origin assigned to American natives could so well account for what we find of the American high places, as the supposition of their descent from ancient
These American high places are striking resemblances of the Egyptian pyramids. Consult those in the region of
and the Egyptian pyramids. And after further noting the "four principle stories" of a great Teocalli, or pyramid, near
The Archaeology informs of a pyramid toward the
The Teocalli or pyramid of Cholula, near Mexico, (noted before from M. Humbolt) is given on a place in the Archaeology, with its temple on its summit, and with its stair-cases of one hundred and twenty steps, leading up its lofty stories. This huge majestic pile was called, "The mountain made by the hand of man."
In the interiors of various of these great pyramids were found considerable cavities for repositories ...
... As circumstances indicated that this triune vessel was a religious emblem, as the narrator of it believes; so this affords an argument of some weight that the inventors of it were of
Another argument going to the same point is this. The writer in Archaeology says; "One fact I will here mention; whenever there is a group of tumult, three are uniformly larger than the rest; and stand in the most prominent places. Three such are to be seen standing in a line on the north side of
The numerous ancient inhabitants on the
And the writer of the Archaeology speaks of the native South Americans as having three principal gods. He says; "One of the three principal gods of the South Americans was called by a name, which signifies the god of the shining mirror. He was supposed to be a God who reflected his own supreme perfections, and was represented by a mirror, which was made in that country of polished obsidian, which is a volcanic production ...